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July 31, 2004

The value is in the process

I look at education as an ongoing, life-long process. I didnít always think that way, but it kind of evolved into that. I know that when I was younger and going to college I was impatient and looked at education differently than I do now. I couldnít understand how a class like, ďThe age of AlexanderĒ would help me in a business degree. I couldnít see how I could apply it to my choice of careers. I know now it was a very narrow point of view but at that time I thought I was wasting my time.
When I first went to the U of M about 19 years ago, I expected a lot. I mistakenly equated my education to making a lot money. It doesnít always work out that way Iíve found. I said Ďmistakenlyí because my basic philosophy was that a college education had to have a specific goal with a payout at the end. Now my philosophy is that the value of a college education is in the process of learning. It doesnít matter what we are learning, and it seems that the broader our range of knowledge the better understanding we have of our world.
I didnít do so well in school when I was doing just what I had to do to get by and get my degree. My grades were falling for various reasons and I ended up leaving the U of M for a technical school. From there I became heavily involved in a skilled trade that paid well. This is what I was looking for in my college education all along! Specific training for a job in that specific field, utilizing the skills I had just learned.
At that time, my computer and technical skills were in high demand. My pay doubled for every five years I worked in that field. I donít regret doing what I did, because I survived. I did what I had to do and what I was capable of. I found out that life, like education was not an end result either. Life is a process. It goes on. We live, we learn, we grow.
Now when I am taking classes, Iím getting Aís. I think it has to do with maturity and a better view. When Iím in a class, now I am not learning for some other goal, Iím there because I want to learn whatís being taught. I enjoy the process of learning more than the credits Iím receiving. In life I enjoy the process of living more than anything I decide to do for a career. Working toward goals is good, but the joy is in the process of getting there, not in the end result.
The ďTech School MentalityĒ seems to be prevalent now in our society. When I tell people that Iím studying Linguistics, the first question they ask is, ďWhat kind of a job can you get with a degree in Linguistics?Ē Itís kind of hard to get it through to them that my goal really isnít a job in linguistics but in learning about human languages so I can better understand people and their languages. I am not worried about finding a job, but I am interested in continuing to learn.

Read the July 29th post in the ĎOne Day at a TimeĒ blog: The value of a Humanities Major. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mahlu002/oneday/ There is a good discussion going, with several good replies.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 AM

July 30, 2004

The Miracle

While I'm at it, I want to share this great quote I found on a message board tonight. Thank you Nancy!

The miracle is this--the more we share, the more we have.

- Leonard Nimoy

Posted by carl1236 at 11:55 PM

Gawker's Slowdown

Today at lunch I was visiting with a friend and had a good discussion. She was reading the newspaper when I walked in and she pushed it away in disgust. Then we talked about Mike Tyson, the boxer. The news article said that heís starting to box again and his promoter is arranging for him to earn 100 million dollars for three fights. The article (Pioneer Press, July 30 Ė I would have linked to it, but they make you log in to read it.) said that it didnít matter what he did in the ring, the fans connect with him and heís marketable.
My friend said itís like when people see an accident on the highway, they all slow down to look. They gape or stare stupidly. His popularity is in peopleís curiosity and the desire to see him crush his opponents like he did in his early days with 49 second knockouts.
As long as we, as a society and individuals keep valuing things like this, then it will persist. We have to remember who is paying the tab for his fame and fortune. It's the fans. If he had no fans he'd be forced to live with the destruction he's caused and face the consequences of his actions. It's supply and demand.
After wasting 300 million dollars, declaring bankruptcy and doing jail time, heís in the money again. Of course out of the 100 million heíll earn, he has to pay back his creditors. But he'll be allowed to keep 2 million of it. For a man who abuses and rapes women, bites the ears off his opponents, and spits in the faces of his fans, he is doing pretty well, don't you think?
As for me, I'm boycotting boxing altogether, because it seems to be an industry that encourages the glorification of someone regardless of what they do to others. Mike Tyson is marketable. His fans love the dirty laundry and the anger in the ring. They just want to see the opponent crushed and are willing to pay for it.
At some point we have to decide what it is in life we really value and support that. After all, we are creating our society and what we demand creates the supply.
You can read this article, which I can link to, for an interesting view of a Boxing legend and hero to the fans who support him, outrageous behavior and all:

http://espn.go.com/boxing/columns/graham_tim/1560938.html

Peace, Love and sharing of life, that's what I want and value.

Today I was reading more in the book, Weíve got blog, how weblogs are changing our culture, and there was a good chapter in it that fits with this discussion. In chapter 18, Douglas Rushkoff talks about media as social currency. According to his theory, Mike Tyson would prove to be the Ďstickierí content because he provides a richer media experience. Just like the baseball cards in a pack of gum, people buy the packs for the cards not the gum.
Douglas said, ďItís an excuse to interact with other humans.Ē I think thatís probably why so much of our media is sensationalistic and features people like Mike Tyson. ďThe real measure of contentís quality is itís ability to serve as a medium,Ē he said.
I have to admit, that article in the newspaper today had us talking about it. And it prompted me to write about it. I think my response to this media could be called a gawker's slowdown. ;-)

More from Douglas Rushkoff. Heís very interesting to read:

http://www.rushkoff.com/blog.php

Posted by carl1236 at 11:46 PM

July 29, 2004

The great pretenders

Iíve been reading a new book thatís very interesting. Since I started writing this blog about 90 days ago, I started wondering just what blogs are and why people make such a big deal about them. So I went on the internet to educate myself. After looking through a plethora of information on blogging I found two books that looked promising.
The first book, which Iím reading now is titled, Weíve got blog, how weblogs are changing our culture, with introduction by Rebecca blood. The second book is, The Weblog Handbook, by Rebecca Blood. Iíve skimmed through both books and was captivated by the story of weblogs presented inside these pages. Then I settled down and started to read from the beginning.
Weíve got blog is written by bloggers and has great insight into just what this phenomenon is and how it started. I just finished chapter 14 and I wanted to share it with you. Itís the Kaycee Nicole (Swenson) FAQ Version 0.7 by Adam Geitgey, May 22, 2001. It brings up a very good point about the internet that I have felt ever since I was introduced to Instant messenger many years ago; There are some great pretenders on the internet.
The Kaycee Nicole Cancer Hoax was all about a person who made up a fictional female college student, created personal webpages and blogs for her, pretended she had cancer and then faked her death to end it. Over a two year period she fooled nearly everyone. Many people became friends of Kaycee Nicole (who really did not exist) and even sent her cards and gifts. Finally a group of Bloggers at MetaFilter.com uncovered the scam. The perpetrator was the mother of a high school student who started the fictitious character. The mother, Debbie Swenson, took over and started writing a blog as Kaycee Nicole. It became very popular and many people felt compassion for her. After she was found out, Debbie Swenson claimed she did nothing wrong. You can read about it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kaycee-nicole/links
Iíve met many people on the internet all over the world. One thing we have to remember is that the internet is really not a real entity in and of itself. It takes real people just like you and I sitting at our keyboards to animate it. When we are chatting with people we are chatting with real people who are sitting at a computer across whatever distance and time. Adam Geitgey in his FAQ very astutely said, ďRemember: the Web isnít evil, evil people are evil.Ē
One of the problems and the blessings of the internet are that people can be anonymous. We can know someone by their nicknames and never learn who they really are or where they live or what they do for a living. We often think we know and can read the real person behind the persona. But all those people who got to know Kaycee Nicole were really getting to know Debbie Swenson, and Debbie was pretending.
One of my friends was being stalked by a man who used over 20 different IDís on her MSN group site. Eventually after a lot of harassment and fear, my friend would find out the truth. She had to shut down her sight finally and only readmit the oneís she knew and could verify.
Another one of my friends worked for a law enforcement agency and was tracking down sex offenders on the internet. It was scary hearing about how many of these people operate. It made me think twice about giving any personal information over the internet.
Another friend was taken for a ride by someone she thought was her Ďsoul sisterí They met on the Internet and became friends. Her Ďsisterí moved in with her and then started to get controlling and manipulative. She ran up the long-distance charges on her phone, stole from her and repeatedly lied to her. Finally my friend had to have her Ďsisterí taken away. It was a horrible experience for my friend.
If you follow some of the links at the sight I listed above you will read other examples of people pretending online. ĎSteven Den Besteí concluded that we must, ďTrust but verifyĒ Having been fooled himself, heís now a little more jaded. He said, ďNever gamble more than you can afford to lose.Ē See his entire commentary on this subject at : http://home.san.rr.com/denbeste/trust.html
But in contrast to all of this, I can say that Iíve met some amazing and loving people on the internet, who live all over the world. Iíve shared in sorrows and love with people I have formed relationships with. I didnít write any of this with the intention of generating more hype and fear about the internet or the people we meet online.
All of this does highlight this thought I had: A good person will be genuine and truthful with or without a mask. My father used to say that itís not so important what someone does when they are being watched as it is when they are not being watched. That is a true judge of character. When people on the internet think they are anonymous and no-one knows their true name, sometimes they become bolder and pretend to be what they are not. They are great pretenders. Eventually people see through the lies and they are left empty.
We need to have trust and truth between human beings to function together properly. There is nothing wrong with protecting our true identities for security reasons, but if we are being genuine and truthful on and offline, that will show in everything we do.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:05 PM

July 28, 2004

I have a pulse

One night last week I tried on my new heart rate monitor. I picked one up on sale at one of the fitness stores so now I can see what my heart is doing when I work out. Of course I didnít need that to tell me I have a pulse, but it is interesting.
Throughout every day of my life I am measuring my heart. My heart rate is only one of the vital signs that tells me I am alive. How I treat others is a vital sign I canít ignore. If Iím treating everyone with love, dignity, respect and compassion, my heart is beating strong and healthy.
How we treat others is often hard to measure though if we are unwilling to look at how we are treating others. Today as I was walking around the park I saw a man crossing the street at an intersection. He was half-way across when the light changed. He didnít hurry up and finish his crossing, but continued in a calm manner toward the curb. Then I heard a few loud rapid blasts of a car horn. One of the drivers waiting to go was impatient and honked at the man. The man did not look back, just raised his arm halfway up as he was walking and gave the driver the finger. The next thing I heard was some expletives coming from the car window. The walking man muttered some profanities back as he strolled by me. In that interaction between two people itís hard to say if either one of them were willing to look at how they were treating each other. It didnít appear that they were too concerned about it.
Yesterday when I took my friend to the hospital it wasnít convenient or easy. But I did it and it all worked out ok. First my friend called me at 9pm on Monday night to ask if I could drive him the next day. I told him I wished he had called earlier so I could ask for the day off from work, but I said I would call my boss and ask. What was I supposed to do as a friend? I wanted to help him even if it was inconvenient.
I called my boss and he was fine with me taking the next day off. The next problem was transportation. At the moment my car was having a problem, so I had to ask my wife to borrow her car for the day. Now Iím implicating others in my charitable actions! But she happened to be off from work that day and was planning on doing some gardening at home anyway. She was happy to help.
The third problem came when we were driving from my friendís house to Rochester. Itís about an hour and-a-half drive. We got about 20 miles from his house and he realized that he left the directions and the appointment information on the table at home. Well, he knew the Hospital name and the doctor he was seeing so I assured him that weíd be able to find it. There are always signs for hospitals when you get close and Iím not afraid of asking for directions. But he was worried.
As it turned out, we entered Rochester on the freeway and saw signs pointing straight ahead, but then no signs telling us where to exit. I had this feeling I should pull off at the next exit to ask for directions. We were both amazed to find out that we were less than a mile from the hospital and that was the best exit to take. So we drove right to the hospital. I dropped him off at the front door and parked the car.
There were no more problems. There was an information desk right inside the hospital entrance and they knew right where he was supposed to go. He was on time for his appointment so it was all good.
It was a peaceful morning while I waited for my friend. I brought along one of the many books on my reading Ďwaiting listí since I knew Iíd be sitting around while he was at his appointment.
Some people would view this whole thing as too inconvenient or even a nightmare. But it wasnít like that. It was much more than that. It was a measure of the condition of my heart. I had offered the previous week to help him in any way that I could. It was a genuine offer from the heart so I was already committed to doing whatever I was able to do.
Life is very short and by consciously choosing to help others we are contributing and creating, verses taking and using. It really has nothing to do with the condition of the receiverís heart. It has everything to do with our own compassion and love for other human beings. Then we know that our hearts are beating strong and healthy. We know we are alive.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:26 PM

July 27, 2004

When death is at our door

Last night my friend called me and asked if I would drive him to the Mayo Clinic today for an appointment. A couple weeks ago he suffered from a heart attack and spent 6 days in the hospital. He was told he needed a quadruple bypass surgery right away.
My friend was pretty scared at the time and for the first time caught a glimpse of his own mortality. After his six days in the hospital he was released with medication to help his blood flow. He had his records sent to another doctor in Rochester for a second opinion and today we went there.
When we got to the hospital he filled out the paperwork, waited for about 40 minutes, then finally went in to see the doctor. It was kind of a let down for him in one way, because he thought they would be more concerned about his impending doom, and basically they told him he still needed the surgery and scheduled another day to come in for further tests to prepare him for the surgery which would be scheduled shortly after the results of that test.
My friend is only in his early 40ís so his first reaction to the heart attack was denial. He didnít think he was having a heart attack. I have heard now that denial is pretty common in younger men and often they wait too long to get to the hospital. He told me today in the car while driving home that it took him 7 hours from the time his heart attack symptoms began to when he actually went into the hospital.
Since his heart attack heís prepared a will and has tried to get some of his bills paid up, and has worried about his upcoming surgery. He is kind of optimistic about the outcome of the bypass surgery, so now that encourages him a little.
Think of a time when we are faced with the very real possibility of our own death. What will it be like? How will we react? I probably would have went right into surgery as the first doctor told my friend to do. I donít think Iíd be trusting the medications to keep me alive for a month before I have the surgery. But I donít think my friend really believed he was going to die. Maybe at first he did. He probably lost a lot of sleep over it.
Death is impending for all of us, but itís a matter of timing. Some die young, some old. How we understand and deal with it as human beings is interesting. In some cultures itís a great time, something to celebrate because that means we cross over to paradise. In paradise there is no suffering.
I know how I feel about death and it doesnít scare me like it used to. I believe in the eternal soul and when we are finished with this physical life in this body, we go on, forever. In that perspective, this lifetime is not even a blip on the radar screen of eternity. Itís short. When we release our tenuous grasp on material things in this world, we are free to live as eternal spirits, thankful for the opportunity to live here, now.
I thank God my friend is still alive and that I was able to help him out today with a ride. Iím also thankful that Iím exercising regularly, eating a lot of fruits and veggies and that Iím not putting toxins in my body, like cigarettes. Iím thankful for life. Thatís how I feel about life all the time, but itís especially meaningful when death is at our door.
How do you feel about death?

Posted by carl1236 at 10:06 PM

July 26, 2004

Endless Needs

Early in life all of our needs are taken care of. Our parents provide food, shelter, clothing, attention, love. Other people provide these for us as well. We have our friends, siblings, cousins, neighbors and schoolmates to play with. We have school to educate us and teach us about the world beyond our neighborhood and playground. We learn to dream about what weíll be when we grow up.
There in the early years of our lives our needs are to play, to eat when we are hungry, to experience and have adventures and to imagine. As we grow, somehow we forget what our needs are and blur the distinction between needs and desires. We crave things. A new skateboard, a new bike, a new car. We crave sexual pleasures, power, recognition or position. Many of the things we desire are not bad or evil in themselves, even though some people have made them out to be. But they can be endless needs, unsatisfying once we have obtained them. When we satisfy our cravings we need to keep fueling it to keep it alive and to make us feel alive. Thatís why many relationships based on sex donít last. Itís not enough.
Itís not enough because we crave more of what we are taking. When we are taking all the time, we are bound to be disappointed at some point when someone or something fails to deliver what we need. As I said earlier, itís not evil or bad to have desires. Thatís part of our human nature it seems. But we are causing ourselves suffering when we confuse desire with need. We also cause ourselves suffering when we are only taking. There is never enough to satisfy our ever expanding and endless needs when we are only taking.
When we learn to give and fulfill otherís needs and desires, whether itís our loverís, our friendís or societyís then we are creating something and not taking and consuming something. We are in balance and our needs are not endless. We often find out that we need very little and that we have a lot to offer.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:41 PM

July 25, 2004

Daggers in their backs

I was talking with some friends tonight and remembered an incident that happened on the bus. During the winter I usually ride the bus to and from work. Along my route there is a man who rides frequently. He walks with a slight limp and uses a cane. When he does ride the bus he usually asks the bus driver to lower the wheelchair platform so he can ride on the lift. This process takes a little time and everyone on the bus tends to stare at the person using it. The bus has to sit there while it unfolds and moves itís passenger along. Then if folds back under the bus steps.
One day people were particularly irritated by the delay. I could hear them talking to each other under their breaths, ďHe can walk, why does he need to use that!?Ē Even the bus driver gave him a look of disbelief when the man asked to use it to get on the bus. Then the man explained that he had a brace on his leg and it hurt him to go up and down the stairs because of the stiff leg. It didnít bend too well. Then the bus driver muttered, ďok, ok.Ē and gave him a snotty look, but did it.
I could tell that the man could hear the comments being made by the people on the bus. When he sat down in the front of the bus next to me, he did not look around. He just looked down at the floor. Everyone on the bus was silent. But I reached over and put my hand on his back. It was like I removed a dagger from his back and he sat up straight and smiled at me. Then we started talking and I found out what he did for work downtown, and that he was going to the store to get some things. I found out about his leg and how it has changed his life. Also, how much courage it takes sometimes to use that lift.
Sometimes our attitudes are like daggers that kill a personís soul. We can drive them in their backs without even realizing it. We stare, we mutter things under our breath, we are irritated, but we seldom get to know the person that we are condemning. Our eyes and attitudes are daggers in their backs that they have a very difficult time removing on their own. That takes another hand. It takes another person who is willing to love and have compassion.
We can all free others of their pain or add to it. Itís always our choice.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:50 PM

July 24, 2004

How to learn any Language

Itís not easy. Itís hard work, but it is P.U.R.E. fun!

Persistence
Use
Repetition
Enjoy

These are key ingredients to success in learning any language, including your native language. Iíve studied German on an off for over 20 some years, Iíve studied Russian, Korean, some Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Portuguese, Norwegian, Chin Falam, and a few others.
Of course I donít claim to be fluent in any of these languages, including English, but that really is not the point. Learning languages is an ongoing process for life. To succeed at any of them, we have to keep learning. Persistence is the key to success.
But before we go on, letís clarify the word success. It means something different to everyone. Success to one person might be to just get a passing grade in a language class because itís a requirement for their major. For that they just need to memorize the vocab and grammar and pass the quizzes and tests. When the class is over they can sell their books and forget it all.
Success to another person might be to be capable of getting around in a country using the language, even if itís difficult. Or it might be to write a novel or serve as a translator in the target language. Iím going to give you my definition of success then introduce you to the man I got this idea from. Success is continuing to learn whatever languages I choose and not stopping until I die. As long as I am learning, I am succeeding.
Barry Farber wrote this book called, How to Learn any Language. In it he describes his life of language learning. He shows his proven memory techniques and talks a lot about attitude. Barry Farber can speak in twenty-five languages. He said in the book that when he first started leaning languages that he got it all wrong. Now he says, ďdo as I now say, not as I did then.Ē I found the tips in this book very useful for my Korean learning and also motivational.
Barryís Book at Amazon.com

We have to use the language to learn it and be able to use it more. Almost every language program will tell you to find native speakers and talk. At first itís difficult but if you canít find a word, work around it in that language. The UofM has a good exchange program for this called the Tandem Language Partner program. Itís been a good experience for me during this last year. I also seek out native speakers in my workplace and around town. If my goal is to communicate with someone in their own language then this is essential practice. Especially since most of us canít immerse ourselves in that language in that country.

Repetition just means learning and relearning, using and reusing until itís second nature. Itís natural to forget things we donít use. Use it or lose it. Repeat it and eat it.

Enjoy it! This gets at the heart of any language learning. If we donít enjoy what we are doing, itís difficult to go on. Since language learning is an ongoing process, we are unlikely to succeed at it if we donít enjoy it. When the going gets rough, make it into a game. Play games with it. Find topics in that language that interest you. I once put Russian words all over my house on the objects to help me remember them. For instance, the word for shelf in Russian is Pol-ka. I had a sticker on the edge of the shelf for a few months until I knew it. Not only did I learn these words, but my wife and daughter started saying them to me. It added a dimension of humor to our lives until I finally got them down and remembered them.
Enjoyment is not only in memorizing words, but in recognizing when we actually understand what we are reading or hearing. Itís one of the greatest feelings.

So if you are learning a language or are planning on learning one, check out that book and remember P.U.R.E. Fun! Persistence, Use, Repetition, and Enjoy!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:20 PM

July 23, 2004

Blog Reviews

Ok, for something different, I'm going to browse the Blogs on this site and highlight some of my favorite entries. Kind of a 'Blog Review' with links so you can read them yourself. This is what I found interesting, funny, moving or creative:
A Heart with a twist of Lemon:
July 18th entry - Three Little monkeys jumping on the bed. Gotta keep a sense of humor in life sometimes. The positive attitude helps. Enjoying meeting other people is a good attribute to have and it does help us broaden our experience and makes us more flexible. Sticking with it is also a good attribute. I think with time, these attitudes and experiences, Mack could be the boss-man and earn the 50,000, but with his college education and these attributes, Mack will probably do much better than that.
But no matter how much money we earn it doesn't take away from the pain of seeing our pets suffer. Poor Nacho. I hope he feels better. See the July 16th entry.
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mack0257/thirdworldthinktank/
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mack0257/thirdworldthinktank/

Deutsche Konversation
One entry with several replies. It will be interesting as the conversation continues. It would be fun to see an online journal in German. Regardless, it's good teamwork if students practice and study together. My practice and study sessions with classmates while learning languages has always made a difference in my grades, and it's more fun than doing it alone. Besides, Es macht mir viel spass, deutsch zu lesen:
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/meye0289/DK/

QWERTY
Q - W - E - R - T - Y as read across the top line of letters on the keyboard we use, has a sense of order out of the chaos. I can always find some interesting tidbit of information in this blog. Recently they have compiled a list of their own favorites:
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/hamm0268/qwerty/

Now my time's up, but I know there are more blogs and postings that I like. This is not all inclusive, but just a sampling. Time flies when we are having fun doesn't it?
At first I thought I might go through the index alphabetically, but there seem to be a lot of empty blogs or blogs that have been abandoned. Part of what makes life better is interaction with other people. Blogs are interesting to me because they seem more real and from the heart than many other things we read. And we can interact with the authors by posting comments.

I hope you enjoyed my reviews and links. Have a great day!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:25 PM

July 22, 2004

It's a beautiful life

But How beautiful it can be is a matter of perspective. Tonight I decided to push myself a little harder and went for a ride with the Saint Paul Bike Racing Club. (http://www.spbrc.org) It was a lot of fun. This was my first time riding as a group. The hills were not too bad and the pace was slower than I normally ride, but the distance was much longer than Iíve done during the work week. But even that seemed ok. I must be doing something right in building up my endurance and overall conditioning.
Before the ride, I decided to leave my backpack at work, ride to the starting point of the group ride, do the ride, then return to work to pick up my backpack. As it turned out, that was the perfect choice to make. Isnít hindsight usually more revealing? So, 36 miles later I was back at work. As I pulled up to our building, I saw the security guard outside with the hood of his car opened. He was having some problems with his 1986 vehicle. It looked like it needed a little help on the outside too. I pulled up and said a cheerful hi. We talked for about a half an hour. He showed me the problem and said that the local garage wanted to charge him 400 dollars to fix it. He also told me that he had only 75 dollars to last him another week. Then I found out that he was taking care of his mother at home, who is 80 years old and barely able to walk.
But he wasnít complaining, just telling it as it was. He said he might be able to borrow a car from his buddy for a little while. Itís the same car he sold to his friend a few years ago for a few hundred dollars. It doesnít have headlights. Do you know what he told me? ďAt least this car has working headlights, so I can get home from work at the end of my shift.Ē
Now Iím looking for a car mechanic in the twin cities who can do a 400 dollar repair job for almost nothing. It really needs to be done soon or this man may be without transportation. His 75 dollars wonít go very far if heís not working.
My ride was beautiful, and when we can help another person, life is beautiful. It helps to keep things in perspective and remember that we are all in life together. If any of you are mechanically inclined or know of a good hearted mechanic or want to help this security guard out with a buck or two, please email me (or reply to this post) carl1236@umn.edu
Iíll continue to look for the best way to help this man out in a time of need. I know itís there because life is beautiful when we share it with others.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:47 PM

July 21, 2004

Cycling on a hot day

Today I rode my bike 20 miles after work, which included two of the toughest hills in the metro area. It was really hot outside! At least the wind was blowing to help cool me down as I rode. This wasnít just any ride though. I truly got a good workout because I was riding with my friend Dan again.
Dan is like Lance Armstrong. When he goes up hills, he makes it look so easy and his normal riding pace is faster than mine. I did really good keeping up with Dan for the first 10 miles of my ride, then we split up to go our own routes home. So with the heat, the heavy pace and the killer hills, I probably should have had heat stroke or something. But I didnít. I was ok, and I actually enjoyed this ride.
One of the dangers of exercising in the heat with the wind blowing is that we donít always feel like we need to drink water. We are still sweating our fluids out, but the wind evaporates the water and cools us down. We donít feel as hot, but we are still losing water at a fast rate, which leads to dehydration. We need to balance our intake of water with the fluid we are losing.
I went through almost two bottles of water, and then had a power drink when I got home to replenish my bodily fluids. without it, I might have severely hurt myself. Our bodies are made up of a high percentage of water. Water is a life sustaining thing to our bodies. In heat or cold we need it to survive.
Water is to our bodies like Godís spirit is to our souls. We are made of God and whether we believe it or not, we cannot live without it. When the wind blows on us we might not think we need to drink but we still need to replenish ourselves. To keep ourselves functioning properly while going through lifeís exercises, through times of abundance or times of hell, we need our source of strength and life continuously. Without it, we still go through life, but we suffer and risk dehydrating ourselves. Then life is without joy. No matter what the conditions in life, when we have a continuous supply of God we can work hard and still enjoy the ride.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:02 PM

July 20, 2004

From My Backyard

This morning I was running a little late so I didnít have time to pack a lunch. So I treated myself to a Kung Pao Chicken. My office is right across the street from one of the most beautiful parks in downtown. I walked down the sidewalk and into another building that has a food court. I got my food, and went out to the street at the other end of the block.
As I was walking back I decided to walk through the park. I had intended on just eating at my desk, but I saw a musician setting up for a lunch-time concert in the park. Then I saw who it was and I decided to sit on a rock and listen while I ate. I saw Michael Monroe last year and still remembered some of his songs.
There is something about seeing artists perform in person, especially outside that captivates me. It must be the fresh air and the fresh sound of a live performance that you can almost touch. Being close enough to see the expressions on their faces adds another dimension to the performance.
Michael Monroe is Solar Powered! His performance today drew itís power from a bank of solar panels on a small trailer. Even his home and studio is solar powered. In the performance schedule they handed out today it states, ďMichael Monroe lives and records in harmony with nature in his solar powered log cabin MisTree Studio, on the North Shore of Lake Superior.Ē With this kind of setup, he can perform in almost any place where people can gather and even some places where most human feet never touch.
Michael Monroe has been involved in many projects related to the Environment. He created the music for the national PBS documentary, Chased by the Light, depicting a 90 day photographic journey. It was nominated for a regional Emmy, featured in the Toronto Environmental Film Fest and received 6 national Awards of Excellence, 2 for his original music.
With songs like, Life is a Mystery, From my Backyard and Follow your Happiness, Michael weaves an intricate story of a human beingís search for purpose and meaning in life I bought one of his CDís called, AbandIn my own mind. Note the play on words, A-band-in / Abandon my own mind. This is a live CD where Michael plays all the sounds himself, blending rich vocals, guitar and bamboo flute with creative technology, delivering a powerful style of acoustic folk, reggae and jazz. The last track on this CD is called, Harmony Demo, and is Michael showing how he uses the technology to loop back sounds to provide his own backup vocals, midi-style instruments, and harmony.
Michael will be playing several free outdoor concerts this summer yet throughout the Twin Cities. Check out his website and schedule at:
http://www.michaelmonroe.info
Iíd like to see the performance at the Lake Harriet Band shell coming up on August 14th.
In the search for meaning and purpose in life, Michael has been drawn back to his childhood backyard forest playground and a love for music that wonít quit.
I highly recommend seeing him play sometime.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:59 PM

July 19, 2004

Managing Multiple Priorities

A long time ago I took this class called, Managing Multiple Priorities. I thought it might help me get more organized and equip me to deal with the increasing work load I was facing. It was an interesting class and I did learn some things.
The class did not reduce my work load. I still had a ton of work to do and it kept coming. Each person that gave me work to do, wanted it right away, or sooner. The class also did not help me wade through the office politics to prioritize each personís work.
There was one exercise in the class that was interesting. It was called Ďspotting your interruptions.í The idea was to have a timeline of each day, like in a daily planner, and place a mark on the time whenever there was an interruption to your work. This was helpful to me to see when I was being interrupted the most, and made me aware of everything that was distracting me as it happened.
The exercise of spotting our interruptions is based on the idea that we can be more productive if we are not interrupted and can focus. Understanding and eliminating some of my interruptions during the day did help me get some of my work done faster. Setting aside a specific time for more detailed work that required more concentration for a time when I typically had fewer interruptions also helped.
Tonight I was talking to a friend online and she said that one thing that helps her is to watch less TV. She cancelled the cable because she wasnít watching it enough. Eliminating some of the things that take up our time is another way to manage multiple priorities. Simplifying our lives can be a great stress reliever.
Itís easy to fill up our time. There a million things we could be doing but our time is limited. Sometimes itís easy to get out of balance in life and feel stressed out. I learned that managing multiple priorities really doesnít mean we can do everything we want to do at once. Everything in our lives is prioritized anyway, whether we are choosing consciously or not.
The month of August is coming up soon, and Iíll be taking a vacation. At the end of the vacation classes will be starting and my priorities will have to change again. I know itís coming and Iím looking forward to it. Iím already digging out those old tools to make sure itís a smooth transition. When we have too much to do with too little time, we rob ourselves of part of the joy in life and thatís precisely when we need more balance in our lives, not less.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:36 PM

July 18, 2004

Start Here >

I was looking at the manual that came with my digital cell-phone to see if there was any information in there about some problems Iíve been having with it. On the fist page in large letters it says, ďSTART HERE >Ē
Iíve read many technical manuals in my life and not all of them are this friendly. There is no real userís manual for life. It would be easy if we had a manual for our lives so we could look up troubleshooting information and see how it should operate properly. Life is full of surprises and interruptions and confusing situations. It would be nice if we could turn to the ĎSTART HERE >Ē section and see a good overview of our lives.
Often finding our purpose in life starts with writing the ďSTART HERE >Ē section of our manual. If we think of our userís manual as a blank book that we must fill as we go about life, then the ďSTART HERE >Ē section is our declaration of who and what we are, and how we basically operate.
My userís manual starts something like this,
ďLoves God and other people.Ē From there my purpose in life becomes more clear. Itís a starting point.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:58 PM

July 17, 2004

Transparency

How many times have we seen someone trying to hold their temper? We can tell they are angry. Their faces might flush, their tone of voice might change, their posture changes or they fidget more. The tension gets thick enough to almost feel it in the air around them.
Iím not saying that we should not get angry, but one thing we tend to forget is that we are often much more transparent than we think we are. People can feel our moods and see it in our actions. Not just with anger but with all the emotions. Have you ever had a friend that was feeling down and you just knew something wasnít right?
Is it better to be transparent on purpose and know, accept and deal with our emotions or pretend we are not having those emotions? What happens when we try to suppress or eliminate them?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:39 PM

July 16, 2004

I love

I love simple things,
the flowers and trees,
the bird as it sings,
and honey and bees.
I love that which loves,
the friendly creatures,
the rabbits and doves,
all life's great features.
I love simpleness,
like inner beauty,
and your faithfulness
beyond your duty.
I love those who love,
you with your warm smile,
sending me thoughts of
everything worthwhile.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:46 PM

July 15, 2004

Learning a foreign language

I know many of you have tried to learn a foreign language. You know what itís like then to spend a lot of time learning, feel confident in the material you are learning and then be in a situation with a native speaker where you feel like you did not learn anything. The mind just goes blank and the person you are speaking to seems to be speaking some other language than the one youíve been working so hard to learn.
I felt that way today and have felt it with other languages also. When I went to Germany my German language skills were pretty good by testing standards, but speaking and listening to German in Germany was kind of overwhelming. Iíve seen it in class when the teacher asks someone a question at normal speaking speed. Tonight I met with my Korean language partner and it was difficult. Even words I knew, I could not understand when he spoke them. It can be frustrating but at the same time it lets us know we need a lot more work.
A positive thought that came out of my meeting tonight was this...when two people cannot understand each other very well, or even not at all, somehow we manage to communicate. It is the willingness of each of us to keep trying and to learn from each other. If people of foreign languages who barely understand each other can come together and learn each otherís language, share each otherís culture and thoughts, then in the realm of world politics there is hope. As long as there is a willingness to come together and understand each other, it can happen. We may realize we need more work and it can be frustrating, but isnít it worth the effort?

Peace

Posted by carl1236 at 10:47 PM

July 14, 2004

And the Fork ran away with the Spoon

As odd as it may be, I was riding along, not even in a residential
area, when I spotted a spoon in the road! Now why would a spoon be in
the road? It's an odd place to find an eating utensil. I laughed as
I thought of the connection to the forks we had found previously.
Sometimes we find things in the most unexpected places. A fork and a
spoon should not normally be found on the road, but there they were.
And not just one of them. This applies to people also. We look at
other people and expect them to fit into our stereotypes.
Yesterday in the park I saw an insurance business representative
playing with a band. He really has a good voice and a lot of talent.
If I did not know what his day job was, I would never have guessed that
this man did both. I'm sure many people at his office and many of his
clients would never guess that he's a fabulous musician and
entertainer.
How we look at other people is important because stereotypes can be
misleading and cloud our vision. But we could look at people from the
inside out. To do that we really have to look, and be willing to get to
know them and let them get to know us. We cannot do this by
generalizing and making assumptions and leaving it at that. We have to
be more aware and look deeper. When we do we often find things in
unexpected places, and realize that inside we all have value.
On June 8th I wrote a little verse about the value inside of us all. What we see on the surface is temporary. June Blog Entries

Reduce the world down to the size of a pea and what do you see? Nothing.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:58 PM

July 13, 2004

A fork in the road

My cycling friend Dan came in one day a few weeks ago with a flattened, beat up looking fork that he had found in the road. We laughed about that. Itís an odd place to find a fork, considering the proximity of where we normally eat to the road. And then thereís the play on words, ďcoming to a fork in the road.Ē So itís kind of humorous to find a literal fork in the road.
I canít imagine that itís a common occurrence, and probably has varying reasons as to how it got there. But there it was.
Earlier this week I was riding home and I was amazed to find a fork in the road myself! It was flattened by cars running over it but not so beat up. It must not have been out there too long. When I showed it to Dan, we both laughed even harder
When I told my wife she laughed too, but then reminded me of an incident that happened about 3 years ago. She and I were going camping at a canoe-in campsite along the river. We strapped our canoe on top of the car and headed out. Evidently I didnít strap it down well enough so along some deserted country road we had to pull over and tighten the straps. As we finished tying it off, she noticed a fork in the road. We laughed about it then too and it eased the tension. My wife still has it in her glove compartment as a souvenir to remind her of the adventure.
Normally when we come to a fork in the road, we have to choose a direction. In this case itís a good reminder of why we are making the choices we are. We chose to laugh off the stress of the canoe almost going airborne.
I cleaned off my fork and hung it up like a piece of artwork in my cubicle at work to remind me that my choices are leading me to better health and overall wellbeing. I came to a fork in the road and now Iím heading in a better direction.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

July 12, 2004

Bureaucracy

Over the last five years I have been managing a collection of engineering project drawing sets with about 800 projects in the collection. This amounts to 22,231 drawings. We keep all of the drawings in the engineering departmentís flat files, catalogued and organized so people can use them for reference, make copies, mark up, etc. We also put them all online on our Intranet so people within our company can view the past project drawings from their own desks.
To stay on top of this task I joined forces with our Librarian who manages our companyís 11 library collections. We use some really good library software called InMagic Dbtextworks. This software allows me to combine my Intranet drawing collection with a really fast database search engine, which is easy to configure and use.
Last year InMagic updated their software to a newer version that wasnít based on a proprietary database. The new InMagic Content Server software is based on Microsoft SQL Server and has several key new features that will make our jobs easier. For instance, now we can have multiple people in my department edit and make database entries directly from a web page without having to have the dbtextworks software installed on their machine.
This is so nice because it will remove me as the middle-man for updating the flat file database record when a change is made. The person in my department responsible for the change can go to a web page and make the change in the database on their own.
So, last spring when Inmagic Content Server came out, we began the process of requesting the upgrade. By December we had the approval of Management and funds for the upgrade and proceeded to order it. The software came in before the end of the year and we were all excited to put it to use.
Now it is the middle of July, almost six months later and we still donít have it installed. What is the problem? Officialism, red tape and proliferation. Bureaucracy has created more bottlenecks to pass through.
First it was our Information Services (I.S.) department who refused to install it. They claimed it was an Ďunplannedí upgrade and they didnít have it in their schedule. Even though they supported every previous upgrade since 1989. Then they had us go through a business use justification, which we had already done with management to get the funding for the upgrade. Then they claimed they needed to understand the software and determine the impact it would have on the business.
The next bottleneck came last month when working with I.S. failed. Our Division formed a ĎIS service contractí team, made up of several managers, someone from finance and others. Its goal was stated as, ďto hold I.S. accountable.Ē Their first action was to pick 3 ongoing projects that require I.S. support and study the process that is being followed by I.S. to complete the support required. The study will help the team discover ďif this is the way we want to operate,Ē quoting one of the team members.
The teams other responsibility will be to prioritize the work that I.S. is performing for our division. Since I.S. claims to be understaffed and overworked, it seems to make sense to funnel all requests for I.S. time through this team.
We are no longer able to talk to I.S. about software installs or upgrades until they talk to the ĎI.S. service contract team,í and then I.S. will come to the users if they need more information. We are not allowed to ask what the status is or when we can expect this work to be done, because the team has to study our divisionís interaction with I.S. first. It leads me to wonder who will hold this team accountable.

This whole scenario is nothing new though. In most organizations there will be turf wars, sandboxes being defended and political positioning. But in many of these cases these are just people trying to control their part of their world.

To those who are caught up in the bureaucracy of an organization, it may be demoralizing and frustrating, but there are still several things that can be done to help the situation: Being professional, Keeping a higher perspective, and not taking it personally.

I was talking with our Librarian and we agreed that although we have lost a little momentum in our efforts, it will still happen. Isnít our current attitude almost more important than the actual outcome? If we donít take it personally and are professional about everything we do, then right now we can still do our jobs to the best of our ability, regardless of what others do. That doesnít mean just giving up. It means keeping the best interests of the company in mind and doing what we can do.
From a spiritual viewpoint, it helps to keep a higher perspective in life. Even higher than the companyís best interests, is applying our spiritual tools to our daily life. Everything we have ever learned about God, enlightenment or spirituality is kind of meaningless if it cannot be applied to our hearts and thoughts. Our daily lives are also our spiritual lives.

Posted by carl1236 at 4:58 PM

July 11, 2004

The Adventure

When got up this morning it was starting to rain. The Thunder in the distance rumbled closer and about the same time I had to leave for work, it started to pour. I was planning on riding my bicycle to work today, but I didnít because I didnít have the heart to start out soaking wet and ride that way for 20 miles.
As it turned out, it cleared up by the time I was done with work today. So after my dinner had a chance to settle, I decided that I wanted to go for a ride. I didnít know where I was going to go, and I couldnít find my Twin-Cities bike map, so I just did it. I got on my bike and started to ride.
Along the way I came to a few dead ends and had to double back, I found some really great views of the river, looking out over the bluffs, and I got to climb one of the most challenging hills in the area. I didnít have a plan for any of it. It just happened. At each turn I decided the route I was going to take. By the time I was finished, I had put in 26 miles and I felt great!
In this case my purpose for riding was not a destination, it was for exercise and increasing my overall strength and endurance. So it really did not matter which route I rode as long as I was riding. To me life is like this. It took me a long time to learn how to trust in God that life would happen no matter what I chose to do. Sometimes if we donít just let go of our plan and trust that it will all work out, we never see the cool new sights overlooking the river or discover new trails or get the exercise we need.
Spiritually, I trust that God will take care of all my needs, so each day can be free of worry and doubt. Freedom from fear is liberating and makes each day an adventure.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:11 PM

July 10, 2004

Good and Evil

A little while ago on Monday night and Tuesday night I watched the movie, ďSalemís Lot,Ē by Stephen King. Basically a powerful vampire moves into town and starts converting people to vampires.
A writer and a boy and a few others try to kill the vampires but realize they have to go after the head vampire first, then go after all the rest and drive wooden stakes through their hearts. In the end the writer dies, the boy is the only one to survive, the vampires are destroyed and there is no-one left in the town.
Regardless of what the movie portrays as good and evil and how they portray the vampires and the townspeople, or what they show as real and not real, there were some good, meaningful lines in the movie.
One thing the Vampire said was, ďYou can kill me, but you canít stop evil. Itís everywhere.Ē
Another person said, ďThe good in this town far outweighs the evil. I can feel it.Ē
The priest said, ďEvil comes from inside all of us.Ē
The town doctor asked the writer, ďAm I one of them or one of us? Am I good or evil?Ē and the writer replied, ďI think itís a matter of choice.Ē

Whether you believe in Vampires or not, we all kind of understand the meaning of good and evil and see it in the people around us. The evil canít be stopped by the actions of killing one vampire, real or imagined. There has to be a change of heart in each of us.
I believe that most people are essentially equal in their capacity for good or evil. The good far outweighs the evil because essentially itís a choice. Good and Evil comes from inside of us. In this life, each of us makes choices about what good and evil is, and each of us has the potential to make a difference in life. Regardless of what the vampires in this life do, we each can reject evil and choose something better for ourselves.
The movie portrayed some insidious evil in the everyday lives of the towns people. The richest man in town was a real-estate person and was secretly molesting his daughter. She ended up turning on him in the end and the living dead devoured him.
Our vitality and wholeness seem to increase when we make better and better choices, choosing good over evil. When we keep making bad choices for ourselves, we sink lower and lower and our energy fades and we have to feed off others, until we are like the living dead in the movie.
There is always hope in life and the good always outweighs the evil as long as we can still choose. And even if we give up our power to choose, we can change at any time. No matter what has gone on in our lives in the past, right now we can choose good over evil, life over death, freedom over bondage, peace over violence and love over hate.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:18 PM

July 9, 2004

The things of God and the things of human beings

Sometimes our focus is on trying to survive or gain some ground in what seems like a losing battle. We work to gain position, to gain possessions, and to gain territory. None of them last.
Being concerned more about the things of this life than the things of God can be a curse though. We often get what we want but then what? Eventually weíll have to give it up. We lose our health, we lose our money, we lose our hair, and everything else we came to appreciate.
When I was walking home tonight I had a thought that what we are seeking after is comfort. We donít like things to change. We donít like to change. So we collect things and people around us and we worry about losing them. Change is inevitable, and life is full of changes. Just look at how our bodies change.
The irony in life is that when we resist change, we struggle more. When we look for comfort in things that donít last, we canít find it, at least not for long. We keep trying to save this life we have created and cling to our notions of what we are supposed to have in life, and we lose our purpose and meaning in life. We lose sight of life itself. But when we let go of it, we gain the ability to live free.
What does it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our own soul? What are we willing to give up in exchange for life? In our struggle to gather around us every comfort and material thing we can, we often forget about the things that make life livable. These are loving others, being loved, truth, peace, etc. These are the things of God. When we are focusing on the things of God, then lifeís struggles donít seem quite as bad, and we are not alone.
One of my friends today told me he was going into the hospital next week for bypass surgery. He was lamenting on everything he had worked for going down the tubes. I pray that heíll be ok. Itís another change in life for him. Things will change, and heíll have to slow down for a while.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:55 PM

July 8, 2004

One River - Two thoughts

What you do not want done to you, don't do to others. - Do no harm
What you want others to do to you, do to them. - Do what is good and helpful to them.
Tonight when my supervisor asked me if I could work 11 hours on Saturday I said yes. There was an emergency and one of my coworkers couldn't do her shift. I know that the circumstances warrant the extra effort and it will be helpful to the person who's shift I'm taking. We need to not only do no harm, but also if we know what is right we need to do it.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:00 AM

July 7, 2004

Around the Block

Last night we had a block club meeting. Each family brought some food to share and it was fun. Many of the neighbors showed up, but still there were a lot missing. It was nice outside and we ate and talked for a few hours.
I had some great conversations with some people I have never met. During this past winter some of the houses around us were sold. Of course in the winter, people tend to go from their heated houses to their heated cars to a heated workplace and rarely see their neighbors. So we did not see the new neighbors until now.
A neighborhood picnic is a great way to meet people and to get to know them. I already found someone who said they would like to go cycling with me. I also met a young couple who just moved in a month ago. One is a school teacher, the other is a computer repair specialist.
Block Clubs have proven to be good deterrents to crime and make neighborhoods safer and better to live in. Neighbors that know and understand each other look out for each other and are less likely to complain. Getting to know our neighbors helps build communities that work. Isnít this the direction we want society to move in instead of isolation and segregation?
This summer as we walk around the block, weíll have some more familiar faces to greet.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM

July 6, 2004

Injuries

My right shin is almost healed, but had a big gouge in it, both knees were scraped up, my right arm had a 3 inch wide stripe that was scraped away, my left elbow was scraped up, and my left shoulder was scraped and severely bruised. My shoulder hurt, my arms hurt, my shin hurt. It was difficult to lift my left arm. All of these injuries happened in what seemed like an instant.
Now that itís been two weeks Iíve had time to reflect on what happened and how I felt. Looking back, my initial reaction was partly based on adrenaline and a work ethic that wonít quit. I had to get cleaned up and get to work. I cleaned the wounds, bandaged myself up the best I could, got on my other bicycle and rode to work. I still made it on time!
One thing I can say about this accident is that I still hurt after two days. It was a serious enough accident that would take weeks to heal. Another thing I can say about it is that it made me think about both how limited, frail and aging these bodies are. At the same time I can marvel at how resilient we can be. No matter what we go through in life, we always seem to be able to make it through it. Sure, a lot of things change, but thatís the nature of life isnít it? And I know we will make it through until itís our time to go. But really Iím talking about recovery here.
Bouncing back seems to have more to do with attitude than physical ability. If I were to whine about my injuries and use them as an excuse to quit exercising, isnít it counter productive? Of course with heavy trauma to the body, I couldnít go out and ride at the same pace and level prior to the injuries, but I could help my body with appropriate exercises and stretching and breathing. The benefits of continuing to exercise my cardiovascular system outweigh my mental worries about what could happen. Even more troubling to me would be what would happen if I just quit.
My body wonít last forever, but I can try to keep it as healthy as possible so Iím not self-destructing. Exercise and a better diet are a step in that direction. Then my body will last as long as it was meant to last without failing prematurely by my own actions and attitudes.
As far as our spirit goes, giving up doesnít help. If we feel sorry for ourselves then we weaken our resiliency. That doesnít mean we should not accept help if we need it. It means we donít lay down on the road and cry and turn sour and bitter. We thankfully accept the help and get back on our feet. We move in the same direction we were going before the injury.
I can say that injuries sometimes help us put life into perspective and challenge our attitudes. That can be a blessing because challenge often leads to change. Physical, mental and spiritual change is part of life. The opportunity is always confronting us to grow up, become more mature, become wiser, become more compassionate, more loving and move in a positive direction.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:46 PM

July 5, 2004

The Kindness of Others

I said thank you to the man who helped me and he said, ďItís ok, some day Iíll need a hand too.Ē He was nice and pleasant to talk to as we drove toward my house. He told me that he was on his way to go roller-blading along the river trail when he stopped his pickup truck to see if I was all right. I was ok but my front tire was all mangled up like a pretzel. I received a few good scrapes on my shoulder, both of my arms and my shin. My head went Ďthunkí on the ground as I skidded to a stop. Within about 10 seconds I went from 30 mph to zero. I had just had the worst accident on my bike this year.
I was riding down a steep, curvy road that had no shoulder. There was a steep drop on the right of the road so in this particular spot there was a curb and a guard rail. A car was passing me a little too close and I moved over, but didnít realize I was coming too close to the curb. My tires skidded along the curb and I wobbled and leaned into the railing. Then my front tire caught and my bike twisted around using my body as a shock absorber. My left shoulder was really bruised and sore. Iím lucky I did not break bones.
As I stood up to take stock of the situation, I looked around and pieced together what had happened. My bike was laying there with the front tire all twisted. I picked it up and leaned it against the guard rail. A few seconds later a pickup truck came up the hill going the opposite direction and stopped. He asked, ďAre you all right? Kind of still stunned by the whole thing one of the first thoughts that came into my mind was a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, ďItís just a flesh wound!Ē Laughingly, I said, ďYeah, Iím ok, my bike is a little mangled though. Then he offered me a ride, and I was really thankful that he stopped.
I was wondering how I was going to get to work, since I was already 4 miles away from home and 9 miles from work. I was very fortunate and Iím thankful that I wasnít more severely injured, that I had a helmet on and that a man with a pickup truck stopped to help me..
Sometimes we rely on the kindness of others and when things are going good we often forget these moments. But even this moment is a teaching moment for my heart. It is the kindness of others that keeps this world a sane and decent place.
This type of kindness is like a drop of water in a still pond. The ripples go out in all directions. So I try to help others where I see a need, as this kind man did to me. The effects of one small act of kindness go out in all directions like ripples in the water, and we may never know what we have created, but it comes back to us. Someday when the man with the pickup truck needs a hand, I have hope that there will be someone just like him who will stop to help.

Note 1. My accident happened two weeks ago and Iím ok. I only have one bandage left on my shin and I can finally move my shoulder around without pain. Iíve been riding every day since and today I rode just over 15 miles from the University along East river road, then home. It felt great!

Note 2. Today in the Tour de France, Gian Matteo Fagnini crashed and was taken away in an ambulance. The Domina Vacanze rider fractured his collarbone, most likely ending his Tour de France. If youíve never seen one of these bike races, itís amazing how fast and close to each other they ride. I think there were 3 or 4 accidents throughout todayís stage, but unlike Fagnini, the others were able to rejoin the race.
Sometimes we do everything right and then have days like that. It has to be very disappointing to come that far and then be finished just 3 days into the 23 day race.

See Tour de France coverage online at: http://ww2.olntv.com/tdf04/

Posted by carl1236 at 9:40 PM

July 4, 2004

What's so funny?

What is so funny about humor at the expense of others? Today I heard a joke that poked fun at one particular ethnic groupís customs. I guess I donít get whatís so funny about it. In my heart I know that itís not based in love or respect.
When I was a young boy I heard a lot of Polish jokes. I cannot imagine that polish people are as dumb as the jokes made them out to be, yet everyone laughed. I even laughed and told those jokes until it hit me that I would not like it if I were polish.
We imagine our principals and morals and values being tested under great challenges but isnít it how we live day in and day out that provides the true test? How we live day to day, minute by minute is a testament to who we are isnít it?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:58 PM

July 3, 2004

Progression

As the Tour de France kicked off today with a time trial in Belgium, I couldnít help but respect the athletic abilities of these cyclists. Today I rode to and from work, twenty miles each way, with an average speed of 17.962 miles per hour. Many of the times in the Tour de France time trial were around 32 miles per hour. Granted, theirs was a 3.8 mile course at an all out sprint. But I know I pushed myself today and know what it feels like to go past my previously known speed limits.
Several weeks ago I came home a little tired. My muscles were tired because I exercised harder for the previous two days than I had to that point. I exceeded one of my previous known limits then also. I rode 80 miles in two days on my bike going to and from work. I had to go to bed early that night because I was exhausted. But I felt pretty good overall.
I first started riding 3 miles each way to and from work. That was rough at the time! Then I extended my trip from 6 miles per day to 10 miles per day by taking a longer route in the morning. Then I occasionally increased that to 26 miles per day by taking a 13 mile route in the morning and evening. Then I decided that if I could ride 13 miles one way, then 7 more miles was not much more to do. And it wasnít. On the weekends my job is 20 miles away from my house. So by riding there it made that the most Iíve ridden at one time. The first three times I did this, I limited myself to riding only one of the two days on the weekend, for a total of 40 miles for the weekend. But that weekend I did it twice.
If I were to travel back in time to when I first started riding my bike I would not have believed I was capable of doing what Iím doing now. It was a struggle for me just to make the 3 miles to work. Not only was there a progression in my physical conditioning, but there was also a mental progression.
Sometimes we do not know what we are capable of until we get into it and experience our limits and surpass them. This doesnít just apply to our physical limits. Our minds are often limited and we donít really progress until we surpass those limitations. Often we look at things and cannot believe we are capable of anything but what we are currently doing or believing. But just as physical conditioning, we need to build on something. We need to progress in order to see the possibilities.
Life is tough sometimes. Our spirits cannot run a marathon without having ever been exercised. Our spirits need to work out just like our bodies, in order to become stronger and better able to run the race.
We start training by doing what we can right now. We can practice treating other people with dignity and respect, we can love those around us. We can forgive those who have done something against us, we can be more aware of those around us and recognize their struggles and pains, we can lend a hand when we see someone is struggling or lost. Once we are doing these things we can see new possibilities open up, and spiritual insights we have not seen before. We are then in a better condition to handle more exercise and surpass our previously known spiritual limits.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:04 PM

July 2, 2004

A change of heart

Today I went to lunch with one of my coworkers. He came up to me at about 10:45 and asked me if I brought my lunch. I had brought a lunch but I could tell he was having a rough day, so I went with him.
As we were walking to lunch he told me that his 70 year old uncle was in the hospital because he fell a few weeks ago and injured something and was not healing. He needed help to walk now which was very difficult for him to accept.
This brought back memories of this same coworkerís father, who passed away 2 years ago. At that time he was devastated by his fatherís battle with cancer and his eventual death. He told me though that because of that experience he is not as afraid of death as he was before.
Not being as afraid of death is a kind of liberation for the living. Itís not that we should throw all caution to the wind and be reckless, but we can live a different life if we accept and acknowledge our own physical mortality. We donít have to sit around and think about it all the time either. My Coworker was not obsessed about death, but his viewpoint on life changed when his father died.
His father accepted death and lived his remaining days gracefully and peacefully. Each day is a precious gift to us. This is the idea that changes our hearts. By living one day at a time, being thankful for what we do have in life, telling those around us that we care about them and love them, and not wasting today worrying about tomorrow or yesterday, we are living now.
I donít know how an idea like this can be taught to people, except through experience. I do know that each of us has the potential to live a life that is free of fear and suffering. A lot of it depends on how willing we are to let our hearts be changed.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:35 PM

July 1, 2004

A new bike

A very wise saying is, ďA personís life does not consist of possessions.Ē Wanting something so bad that we have to have it, that we think about it all the time, is robbing us of being able to live fully right now in this moment. We can use words like, Ďcovet,í Ďlust,í and Ďcrave,í to describe this feeling.
No matter how many material things we accumulate, it doesnít change our basic bodily function of living. Possessions also do not alleviate the wounds of our hearts. Too often we think that getting things will make us happy. But happiness is something that comes from the inside out
Last week I got a new bike that is lighter and faster. But it did not help me ride with my friend Dan, a.k.a. Lance Armstrong, today. The new bike did not alleviate the need for better training and more of it. Dan led me on a 15 mile ride at a brisk pace and up one of the toughest hills I have seen. The bottom line is that the bike doesnít make the athlete. The athlete uses the bike to increase performance, but the athlete still has to build up endurance and strength and speed.
Too often in our society we are looking for the immediate fix.. Itís a demand for instant gratification. We want everything now, and want the easy solution. We want pills that make us skinny without exercise or a better diet. We want diets that make us lose 50 pounds instantly and we want a body that makes heads turn without putting in an effort. Our society seems to be promoting, ďwhatever it is you want, you can buy it now and tomorrow your problems will be gone.Ē
When I got on my bike for the first time this year, I had no idea what kind of a commitment daily bike riding would be. Itís difficult sometimes, downright hard! But itís not a new bike that drives me on. Itís knowing that Iím improving my physical condition and decreasing the chances that Iíll die prematurely of my own neglect and abuse.
A personís life does not consist of possessions. It is much greater. Possessions can be stolen, they rust, they wear out, they break, we get tired of them, and they falsely give us a sense that we are somehow immune from pain and suffering. Yet when we base our happiness on what we can get, we have to keep getting to feed ourselves or risk being unhappy again. And how much is enough. Itís illusive.
I like my new bike but I like my friend Dan even more for taking the time to ride with me and push me a little. Too often we are hung up on getting something quickly. But like cycling, fitness doesnít come from the machine, it comes from our commitment and continuous exercise and diet. Itís in the process. Life is in the process not the possessions.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:13 PM